Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caramelized Leek and Shallot Tart

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I've made variations of this leek and shallot filling several times, which always ended up in a prepared tart crust. I decided to try making my own crust this time and was glad I did—besides looking kind of fancypants yet rustic, this crust is the perfect compliment to the soft yet textural feel of the caramelized onion blend. A modest sprinkle of brown sugar and vinegar over the leeks and shallots during the hour-long caramelizing process introduces a subtly sweet and tangy quality into this rich and savory tart.

For the crust

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 TB Earth Balance, melted
1 1/2 tsps Ener-G, whisked into 1/3 cup water

For the filling
2 TB Earth Balance
1 large leek, sliced thinly
4-5 large shallots, sliced thinly
2 TB brown sugar, divided
1 TB vinegar
2 tsp fennel seed

For the roux

1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup flour

Combine all of the crust ingredients into a Kitchen-Aid mixer. Blend until the dough is smooth and silky, adding a bit more water or flour as needed. Form into a ball and place into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel or saran wrap. Let rest for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, melt the Earth Balance in a large skillet over low heat. Add in the leeks and shallots and only stir every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, add in half of the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir gently and let caramelize for 30 minutes more, adding the rest of the brown sugar and fennel seed during the last 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

If you are making two tarts, divide the dough into two pieces and roll out on a floured surface as thinly as possible. You can also use a round flat pyrex dish to make one large tart. Lightly spray the baking vessel with a bit of cooking spray, then gently drape the dough into it, leaving the flaps open.

To make the roux, melt the Earth Balance over low heat in a small saute pan and slowly add in the flour. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes, or until a light brown color develops. Pour the roux into the base of the tart. Place the leek and shallot mixture on top of that, then gently gather the flaps of dough and arrange nicely over the top, leaving some of the tart mixture in the center exposed.

Brush the top of the dough with a bit of olive oil and place into a 350-degree oven to bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chia Chai Tea

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After recently trying out prepared kombucha with chia seeds, I've been using the seeds in different types of teas and have to admit I'm kind of addicted to them now. In their original form, chia seeds are similar in texture to and slightly larger than poppy seeds, and are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which provide a multitude of health benefits. When immersed in liquid, the seeds create a gel-like consistency that is odd yet intriguing—and totally worth trying out. Here I've used the chia seeds in some freshly-brewed decaf chai tea, with a touch of raw agave at the end.


To create the perfect suspension, mix a 9:1 ratio of prepared tea and chia seeds. Allow the mixture to blend and expand for about 30 minutes before drinking. Any leftover chia tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lemongrass and Cilantro Shumai

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The last time I paired lemongrass and cilantro with tofu in a dish, it created such a beautiful aroma and unique flavor that I wanted to use them all together again, but in a different way. So I blended these ingredients, along with a few other sweet and savory components, to create a filling for shumai. I couldn't find any wonton wrappers that didn't contain egg, so I decided to make them myself. The trick here is to get the dough as thin as possible, which allows the steam to permeate through to the filling, producing a soft and pliable texture throughout. It's a bit of a process to make these, but you can assemble, steam and then freeze them in large batches—they will re-steam again perfectly.

for the wrappers
1 cup pastry flour
1 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp salt

for the filling
1 cup mirin
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 TB soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2-3 lemongrass hearts, chopped
2 tsp brown or palm sugar
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 block firm tofu, pressed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 TB cornstarch
chopped scallions and ponzu sauce, for serving


In a glass pyrex dish, whisk together the first eight filling ingredients. Place the pressed tofu into the marinade, flipping it over to ensure it is well coated. Place in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours or overnight.

To make the wrappers, place the flours, Ener-G/water and salt into a mixer. Blend until the dough is smooth and pulls away easily from the sides of the bowl, adding a bit more water as needed. Remove the dough, roll into a ball and place in another greased bowl and cover with saran wrap. Allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.

Separate the dough into four equal pieces. On a well-floured surface (I kept a small bowl of rice flour nearby), flatten the dough out as thinly as possible, using a rolling pin. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out perfect circle shapes, re-rolling any unused dough. Reroll each piece to maximize the thinness of the dough.

Next, prepare the shumai filling. Using a large skillet, saute the tofu over medium-high heat, until well browned. Place into a food processor. Saute the thinly sliced shallots until well browned and add to the food processor.  Pulse several times until it is chunky but not overly smooth. Add in the cornstarch and pulse a few more times.

Shape the tofu mixture into small 1- to 1 1/2-inch spheres. If it doesn't adhere well, add a bit more cornstarch to the mixture. Place a sphere into the center of one of the pieces of dough. Gently gather the corners up around the sphere, leaving the tofu mixture partially exposed.

Place the finished shumai into a steamer basket lined with parchment paper or cabbage leaves and cover. Place the steamer into a wok or large skillet with several inches of water over high heat. Steam for 15-20 minutes, or until the shumai is soft and slightly transparent.

Serve sprinkled with the green scallions and ponzu sauce.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spicy Shiitake Mushroom Roll

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Dried shiitake mushrooms are lovely. Rich, woodsy and delectable, they are great to incorporate into pat├ęs, soups and chowders. They also work incredibly well in sushi—their chewy and dense texture actually works better than fresh shiitake, and they hold up well to deep-frying. Adding some rich and spicy sriracha-Vegenaise sauce makes everything melt together here fabulously, producing a heavenly bite of sushi that's also very easy to make.

1 cup sushi rice
2 cups water
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB sugar
1/2 TB salt
5-7 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in very hot water for 30 minutes to an hour
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
1 cup cornstarch (stored in the freezer a few hours before frying)
vegetable oil
2 nori sheets
1-2 TB sriracha, mixed with 1-2 TB Vegenaise
crushed red pepper, pickled ginger and soy sauce, to serve

Soak the rice in plenty of cold water for about 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly under fresh cold water and place into a rice cooker with the 2 cups of water. Once the rice is ready, place the rice vinegar, sugar and salt into a large glass bowl and place in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Transfer the cooked rice to the glass bowl and stir well. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat several inches of oil over medium-high heat. Drain and destem the mushrooms and slice into strips. Once the oil is ready (test by dropping a pinch of cornstarch into the oil—if it bubbles up immediately, you are ready to fry), dip a few of the mushroom slices in the Ener-G mixture, then coat in some of the cornstarch. Fry for 1-2 minutes and place on a few paper towels to drain.

To assemble your sushi, place a nori sheet (shiny side down) on a sushi mat. Using a sushi paddle, spread an even layer of rice over the sheet. Using your fingers, distribute the rice evenly, using a small bowl of water nearby to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers.

Place half of the mushrooms on the shortest end of the nori sheet. Drizzle with desired amount of sriracha-Vegenaise mixture and slowly and carefully roll it up, keeping it tight as possible. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll in half and repeat until there are eight rolls. Serve with pickled ginger and soy sauce.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Easy Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal

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This is the perfect breakfast for the upcoming winter months: this oatmeal is warm and inviting, the flavors are easy to adjust and it produces an amazing aroma to wake up to. To prepare this, I combine a 1:3 ratio of whole rolled oats to water in a crockpot, add some Earth Balance and salt, whatever spices I have on hand and then go to bed. The oatmeal develops a hearty and silky texture overnight in the crockpot without any additional effort or prep. This method also works well with steel cut oats.

1 cup thick rolled oats (not instant)
3 cups water
3 TB Earth Balance
1 tsp salt
Suggested additions: cinnamon stick, whole star anise, allspice, cardamom

Place the first four and any combination of the suggested additions into a crockpot before bed. Set your crockpot temperature to low and cover, allowing it to cook overnight. Serve with any combination of brown sugar, raw agave, fresh cracked pepper, large crystal salt and almond, soy or coconut milk. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Reheats very well in the microwave.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas with Smoked Paprika

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This isn't really a recipe, method or even a novel idea, but it's something that I've been recently making during the week that happens to be cheap, easy, quick to prepare at the end of the work day and incredibly delicious. I love using smoked paprika in the spice blend here: it's richness and complexity makes all of the other spice flavors sing, while the textures of all the other components work well together between two warm tortillas fresh from the oven. 

1 TB chili powder
1 TB cumin
1/2 tsp habanero powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 red onion or 3 small shallots, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
cheddar or mozzarella daiya

Fresh tortillas
olive oil
to serve: fresh cilantro, Tofutti sour cream, salsa

Preheat your oven to 400. Combine the first five ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onions or shallots and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute more. Add the spice blend to the skillet and mix well, sauteing about a minute more. Add in the black beans and frozen corn, sauteing for about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and throw in the tomatoes.

Place a tablespoon of oil onto a cookie sheet. Place the tortilla onto the oil and swirl it around, and then flip it over. Place into the oven to bake for 5-7 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove from the oven and repeat oiling a fresh tortilla. Place a generous amount of the skillet mixture onto the tortilla and place into the oven. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a handful of the daiya. Place the cooked tortilla on top and put it back in the oven for 2 minutes more. Slice with a pizza cutter to serve.